Thimphu

General Information

Location: Western part of the country
Distance from Paro (Airport): 65 km (1 hr 30 mins.)
Elevation: 2320m, 7,610ft
Area: 1,819 sq. km

Thimphu became the capital of Bhutan in 1961. The city is located in the heart of the Wang Valley and is the most happening place in the whole of the country. All the head offices of the various government ministries and agencies are located here.

Hundreds of Buddhist temples, monasteries and stupas are found scattered atop rocky cliffs, on remote hillsides, on uneven enclosures and all the other possible regions indicating that in Bhutan, Buddhism is flourishing in its ever youthful state. The unique Bhutanese architecture is validated in all the buildings considering that it is one of the most striking features of the country, besides the rich cultural heritage and definitive symbols that embody Bhutan’s distinctive quality.

Tourism Attractions
1. Tashichho Dzong
Tashichho Dzong (the Fortress of Auspicious Religion), is located in the capital and is the seat of the government as well as the monk body. His Majesty the king has his office here. During the winter, the monk body moves to Punakha, the old capital of the country, where the weather remains moderate when it freezes in Thimphu.
Re-erected in 1968, the fortress suffered several major conflagrations. The central tower around which the fortress is built around is an original section of the old fortress.
The outstandingly complex and subtle architecture of the fortress is one of the finest in the country. The fortress stands with the perfect expression alongside the Wang Chhu River in the Thimphu valley.
2. Thimphu Tsechu Festival 
Besides the many festivals celebrated in Bhutan, Tsechus are the most popular. The Tsechu is a vibrant religious festival performed in the courtyards of all the Dzongs in the country. It is symbolic and has didactic contents and is performed by both monks and laymen to commemorate the different events in the life of Guru Rinpoche. For the people it is a special occasion for them to appear decked in their finest attire and to get together with friends and family simultaneously to prove their religious fervour.The festival’s dates are not fixed, and the length and programme vary from one place to another.During the 3 days of the Thimphu Tshechu, the tourists are allowed to witness the dances in the courtyard, but they are not allowed to witness the performances inside the Lhakhangs and temples in the Dzong.
3. Simtokha Dzong
The picturesque fortress that stands on the hill across the road 6 km away from Thimphu is the oldest Dzong built in 1629 by the Shabdrung. Since 1961, the Dzong has been used as the Institute for Language and Cultural Studies.
Being the oldest fortress in the country, it boasts of the age old articles that belonged to the Shabdrung, the first king’s father and the venerable teachers who have spent a portion of their life time here.
4. Dochu-La Pass
The Dochu-La, which is 45 minutes steep climb from Simtokha, is marked with a beautiful cluster of Chortens and wind-blown prayer flags. In winter or exceptionally clear weather, the view of the mountains is stunning; Masang Gang (7,194m, 13,602ft) above the Laya region, Tshendagang (6,960m, 22,835ft), Terigang (7,060m, 23,163ft), Jejegangphugang (7,158m, 23,484ft), Kangphugang (7,170m, 23,524ft), Zongaphugang (7,060m, 23,163ft), and Gangkar Punsum (7,541m, 24,741ft) the highest peak in Bhutan.
5. National Memorial Chhorten 
An important historical landmark in the Thimphu city, the National Memorial Chhorten was constructed by the revered Dung–se Rinpoche at the behest of the late Royal Grandmother Ashi Phuntsho Chhodron in 1974 in memory of her son the third king Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, who died in 1972. His remains are in Kuje Lhakhang in Bumthang but people pay their respects to his photograph mounted on an alter inside. The Chhorten has great significance in the religious life of the people and symbolizes, as do all stupas, the levels of the Buddha’s mind and teachings. It is ritually circumambulated clockwise to gain merit for the next life and atone for present sins, considering it one of the most magnificent of all contemporary Tibetan or Bhutanese style monuments.
The Chhorten contains three chapels representing the main spiritual themes of the Nyingmapa school, preached by Guru Rinpoche and rediscovered by the great Lamas, Phurba, Kagye and Lama Gondu. The three storeys contain enormous three-dimensional Mandalas of meditational deities. The painting and sculpture is of excellent quality and reflects the devout faith of the Bhutanese. Occasionally a religious ceremony is performed here. People throng to offer fragrant incense, butter for the lamps and white scarves (Khadars), and to receive blessings from venerated Lamas.
6. Changangkha Lhakhang
The temple is one of the oldest in Thimphu, built in the 15th century by a Bhutanese lama of the Drukpa Kagyudpa School. Its silhouette, perched high on a spur, is a landmark of Thimphu. Tourists are not allowed inside the temple without a permit, but one can sit next to the prayer flag and enjoy a good vista over the Thimphu Valley.
7. The Zangtopelri (Paradise of the Guru Rinpoche)

Located right next to the national playground Changlimithang, the Zandopelri was built by the late Aku Tongmey. Within, there are the various statues of the Guru Rinpoche.

8. World’s Largest Buddha Image

The tallest Buddha image, which will perhaps be the 8th wonder of the world, is being built in Kuensel Phodrang, a hill overlooking the Thimphu Valley. This is an attraction exclusively designed to commemorate the centenary and the coronation of the fifth king, Druk Gyelpo Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck in 2008 (Completion date still not known)
The 169 feet bronze Buddha Dordenma image, fits exactly on a one-acre land and will be completed with 17 storeys of different Lhakhangs (monasteries) within it, including the throne. These include three storeys within the throne, two each inside the lotus, waist, chest, face and shoulder and one each in the legs, neck and head.
The Lhakhangs will have, among other things, 25,000 12-inch copper images of Buddha Dordenma, gilded with gold, eight 10-feet standing bodhisattvas, sixteen 6-feet high Arahats, King Hashang (Maitreya Bodhisattva), Dharmata Tiger, Sutra Holder, the four direction kings, and the third storey up to the top will accommodate 100,000 eight inch statues of Buddha Dordenma. There will be a meditation hall inside the throne.

Kuensel Phodrang was one time the palace of the 13th Desi Sherab Wangchuk, which now stands in ruins. The one Lam Sonam Zangpo, a renowned yogi, was said to have prophesized that construction of such an image in this region would bring stability, peace and prosperity in the country. It is five kilometers away from the highway.

In addition to the attraction solely presented by the image, an additional 10 acres of land will have public galleries, restaurants, large parking spaces, camping grounds, dharamsalas and lodgings for monks. The royal government will also build a national park, and develop picnic spots at the site.

9. Tango & Cheri Monasteries among others

Tango and Cheri Monasteries are situated in the North of the Thimphu Valley. They are placed on the steep hills facing one another. Whereas the Tango monastery was founded by Lama Gyalwa Lhanampa as a monastic school in the 12th century, the Cheri Monastery founded by Phajo Drugom Zhipo serves as a meditation center.

The present Tango Monastery was built in the 15th century by the ‘divine madman’, Lama Drukpa Kuenley. Tango is the residence of an important young reincarnate lama recognized as the seventh reincarnation of Gyalse Tenzin Rabgye. There’s a cave where we will have to go through and come out from the other end. It is a mythological belief that a person having bad intentions will be trapped inside.

The banks of the river at Dodena serve as a beautiful lunch spot. The trail at the opposite side of the valley leads to Cheri Lhakhang. Cheri Lhakhang– built in 1620 by the Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, a silver chorten inside the temple holds the ashes of the Zhabdrung’s father. There are narrow stone steps that lead to the lhakhangs above. It is believed that if one ascends these steps without resting in-between, he will atone himself from the sins which are a result of his dire actions against his parents.
10. Handicrafts Emporium/ Textile Museum

The Handicrafts Emporium is located in the heart of the Thimphu city. It has thangkas, bamboo wares, textiles, woodcarving, jewellery, books, pottery and all kinds of Bhutanese souvenirs. Only American Express credit cards are accepted.

11. Institute of Traditional Medicine Services

Traditional Bhutanese medicine is practiced at the Indigenous Hospital, built in 1978, a blend of Indian and Chinese ayurvedic and herbal procedures. Traditional medicine is actively encouraged by the government.
12. Zorig Lobdra Choekhor Painting School

Not so far from the Indigenous Hospital, the Painting School and National Library are located close to each other. At the Painting School, children follow a course in religious drawing and painting, sculpturing, carving and mask making.

13. National Library

The National Library was established in 1969 and is relocated in a new Bhutanese style building inaugurated in 1984. It contains an important collection of foreign books on Bhutan, the Himalaya and Buddhism as well as a unique and very rich series of Bhutanese and Tibetan books, manuscripts and xylographs.

14. Weekend Market

People from across the country (especially from the west) come to Thimphu to sell agriculture produce and a whole gamut of goods in the weekend market located next to the national playground, Changlimithang. The market is momentarily shifted to the school soccer ground alongside the river, to revamp the old one into something like that of a shopping precinct.

The weekend market is a place where people from all walks of life, congregate to buy the entire week’s rations. Besides being apparently exotic, some vegetables and fruits are also mouth-watering and delectable. Some customers, especially the foreigners are more interested in buying small traditional Bhutanese souvenirs with choices ranging from decoration pieces like carved wooden masks, wooden bowls, and hand loomed fabrics to jewellery that are beautiful and antique.

The vicinity becomes more enlivening when the religious musical instruments displayed for sale are played to attract customers.

15. Day walks

15.1 Write up on Jogging Trial/Cross Country Track in Sangaygang, Thimphu.

A one day trek starting from Sangaygang Lhakhang near Bhutan Broadcasting Service (BBS) tower to Wangduetshe Lhakhang and then to Tashiding village (below Chhokortshe Lhakhang), which is approximately 6 kilometers in length and 4 feet width. The trial then connects back to the starting point; Sangaygang Lhakhang, which stands on a small hillock and thus serves as a panoramic view point for the northern part of Thimphu valley.

The Sangaygang Lhakhang has three important statues of Tshepamey, Doma and Namjurma having two Mani Dungjur in the middle. It was built by Her Majesty, Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuck.

The Wangdeuetshe Lhakhang which was built almost 400 years ago also provides an attraction of historical significance. It was one of the strong hold points of the Deb Rajas in the olden days. This Lhakhang has all the eight frescoes of protecting deities of Bhutan. It has one of the oldest and most beautiful statues of Lord Buddha. From the Lhakhang one can enjoy the very strategic view of Dorji Dra, Samteling Palace , Pamtsho village, Indian Embassy complex, Trashichhodzong, National Assembly building, Dechenphodrang Monastery, Taba and Dechhenchholing.

Tashiding is a small village with only one traditional Bhutanese house and few huts. The village is located just below Chhokortshe Lhakhang.

There is no doubt, the trial will equally quench the thirst of the travelers who love nature. The travelers will experience natural settings with its associated vegetation and wildlife. Small springs and high cliffs are common along this route. Extensive stands of pine, bamboo and alpine forests with blooming flowering plants are traversed. Few species of birds and wildlife also exist along the trial.

15.2 Botanical Garden in Serbithang

This young garden’s foundation was laid by Her Majesty Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuk on 26th may, 1999 and was inaugurated in 2005. The Botanical Garden is a part of the National Biodiversity Centre and will focus on growing plants from Bhutan. The aim is to showcase examples of the country’s beautiful flora and to encourage the conservation of biodiversity.

The garden is still developing and many of the trees are still small. The rock garden is a unique blend of eastern and western horticultural styles. The medicinal plants area is also full of interest. The orchids in the orchidarium and tropical plants in the glass houses are interesting throughout the year. Some of the shrubs and flower beds have more seasonal interest.

Other Attractions

1. National Folk & Heritage Museum
2. Kuju Lhuyang (Traditional Music & Folk dances)
3. Voluntary Artists Studio Thimphu (VAST)
4. Arts & Crafts Center
5. Takin Zoo in Motithang
6. Botanical Garden at Serbithang
7. Gold and Silver Smith
8. Paper Factory
9. Incense Factory
10. Rock Climbing
11. Mountain Biking
12. River Rafting